Do Obama’s abysmal approval ratings signal a looming Republican takeover?

President Obama’s approval ratings have plummeted and the Democratic Party’s popularity is at its weakest point in 30 years. What does that mean for the midterm elections on Nov. 4? 

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama walks from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, upon his return from a meeting at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The president met with military chiefs in a show of strength against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Less than a month ahead of midterm elections, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows President Obama’s approval ratings at the lowest level of his presidency, and the Democratic Party’s popularity at its weakest point in 30 years.

While this is certainly bad news for Democrats, it doesn't necessarily spell defeat in November, say political analysts. More on that a little later. 

Some 40 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance; among independents, the number is even lower, 33 percent. And 51 percent of Americans view the Democratic Party unfavorably, its weakest number in three decades of polling.

“It’s a little surprising,” says Michael McDonald, a political science professor at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., of the poll findings.

The poll reveals Americans’ dissatisfaction about the state of the country and the political leadership in Washington. Two in three say the country is seriously off-track, according to the Washington Post.

Americans are dissatisfied with Obama’s handling of immigration, international affairs and terrorism, among other issues.

Perhaps most concerning to Democrats are poll results showing an enthusiastic Republican voter base prepared to turn out for midterm elections and a relatively lackluster Democratic base. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans say they are certain to vote, compared with 63 percent of Democrats.

Does that signal another Republican sweep at next month’s midterms?

Not quite.

“What’s unusual about this election compared to others is that the American people don’t have that high an opinion of Republicans either,” says McDonald.

In fact, Republican Party approval ratings are even lower than their Democratic counterparts – just 33 percent.

“It doesn’t look to be a wave election like 2010,” says McDonald. “Not an anti-Obama wave, if anything, it may be an anti-incumbent wave.”

Still, many Democratic candidates have tried to distance themselves from the president and his policies.

“There’s a reason the president isn’t often seen on the campaign trail,” writes Time’s Jay Newton-Small in an article titled, “Vulnerable Democrats run away from Obama.”

In one famous example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes refused to say whether she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

And there’s a reason Obama makes some Democratic candidates squirm. 

Midterm elections are typically a referendum on the party in power, and the president’s party can usually expect to lose seats.

“[P]residential approval ratings…and views that the country’s on the right track…highly correlate with midterm gains or losses for the party in power,” reports ABC News in a piece on the latest poll findings.

Adds McDonald, “Some of the models that look at estimates of loss of house seats look at presidential approval ratings as one indicator for that loss. It is statistically significant.”

What does that mean for the president’s party on Nov. 4? 

Consider this: Obama’s approval rating is similar to that of George W. Bush’s heading into the 2006 midterms, when Republicans lost 30 seats.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Do Obama’s abysmal approval ratings signal a looming Republican takeover?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today